A look back at the key events that shaped Africa in 2021


From the re-election of Yoweri Museveni in Uganda to the death of Chadian President Idriss Deby and the current crisis in Ethiopia, the year has been eventful for Africa. AXADLETM looks back on some of the news that shaped the continent in 2021.

Yoweri Museveni reelected in Uganda amid accusations of fraud The start of the year was accompanied by political upheaval in Uganda. President Yoweri Museveni won the January 14 presidential election with 58.6% of the vote, catapulting him into his sixth term. But opposition candidate Bobi Wine, who won 34.8% of the vote, claimed there had been widespread electoral fraud and called on Ugandans to reject the results. Wine, a former singer whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, then took his election challenge to the Supreme Court, claiming he had evidence of electoral fraud. However, three weeks later he asked his lawyers to withdraw the case, saying the judges were partisan.

Museveni’s presidency began in 1986 on the back of a rebel movement in the country. He was first hailed as a modern leader in the wake of the brutal de facto dictatorships of Idi Amin Dada and Milton Obote, but his grip on the country gradually became more authoritarian.

Chadian President Idriss Deby dies on the battlefield

Just hours after being declared the winner of the presidential election, Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno died on April 20 while fighting rebels in the north of the country. He had just won his sixth term after three decades in power. A transitional military council took power, headed by Idriss Deby’s son Mahamat Idriss Deby, a 37-year-old general. He promised to organize “free and fair” elections in the country within 18 months. In November, he decreed an amnesty for rebels and political opponents in the country, with the aim of opening dialogue with armed groups.

Laurent Gbagbo returns to Ivory Coast after nearly a decade

Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo returned home on June 17 for the first time since his ouster from power in 2011. He took a passenger flight from Brussels, where he had lived after the International Criminal Court in The Hague on him. acquitted in January 2019 of war crimes. Hundreds of supporters greeted him at the airport. After meeting his former rival Henri Konan Bédié, he then met current leader Alassane Ouattara at the presidential palace on July 27 – their first meeting since the besieged elections of 2010, which led to a bloody civil war. In October, Gbagbo launched a new political party and has yet to rule out running in the next presidential election in 2025.

Tigrayan rebels take Mekele in Ethiopia

Rebel fighters entered Mekele, the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, on June 29, prompting the Ethiopian government to call for a ceasefire after nearly eight months of fighting. It marked a major turning point in the conflict. Mekele had been under the control of federal troops since November 28. The arrival of rebel fighters in the city sparked celebrations, with locals coming out and dancing in the streets.

The war has claimed thousands of lives, displaced more than two million people and left hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians into famine. On December 20, Tigrayan fighters announced that they would withdraw from areas outside Tigray to allow humanitarian aid to arrive.

Former South African president Jacob Zuma sent to prison

South Africa’s Constitutional Court sentenced former South African President Jacob Zuma to 15 months in prison on June 29 for refusing to comply with an investigation into corruption committed during his tenure between 2009 and 2018. A few minutes before the July 7 deadline, Zuma has become himself. Days of riots and looting by his supporters have left more than 300 dead. He was released on medical parole in September, but the country’s High Court ordered him to return to prison in December.

Najla Bouden becomes Tunisia’s first female prime minister Najla Bouden Romdhane was appointed Tunisia’s first female prime minister on September 29, two months after Tunisian President Kais Saied sacked the former prime minister and suspended the cabinet. Bouden was a geophysics teacher by training and barely known to the public when she was appointed. It was the first time in the country’s history that a woman had been asked to form a government – although the “exceptional measures” adopted by President Saied somewhat diminished her power. In a speech upon taking office, Bouden said that “the fight against corruption will be the most important goal” of his government.

France returns works of art from Benin

On November 9, France returned 26 works of art looted from the Abomey Palace by colonial troops and until then exhibited at the Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac Museum in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron met Beninese President Patrice Talon at the Elysee Palace and organized an official ceremony for the handing over of the treasures after nearly 130 years of absence from their country of origin. Hundreds of Beninese gathered at Cotonou airport to welcome the works of art to their homes in a moving and historic moment for the country.

Goodbye to French troops in Timbuktu

French troops left the Malian city of Timbuktu on December 14, eight years after their arrival. General Étienne du Peyroux, head of the French mission in the Sahel Operation Barkhane, briefly shook hands with the camp’s new Malian commander, who was also offered a symbolic wooden key as a farewell gift. It was in this city that former French President François Hollande officially marked the start of the French deployment to the region on February 2, 2013, after French and Malian troops liberated the UNESCO-listed city from control of jihadist groups. But almost nine years later, France ends its involvement in the region in 2022, going from 5,100 soldiers to 4,800 in January, 4,000 in the summer and 3,000 in the summer of 2023.

Congolese music and the Senegalese national unknown by UNESCO On December 14, the Congolese rumba was inscribed on the list of intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO, joining the polyphonic pygmy music of the Central African Republic (added in 2003) and the drums from Burundi (added in 2014). In Kinshasa and Brazzaville, rumba specialists trace the origins of music to the Kongo kingdom, where a dance called Nkumba was born. Rumba in its present and modern form dates back hundreds of years. He was made famous by musicians like Papa Wemba, Grand Kallé, Wendo, Tabu Ley Rochereau, Franklin Boukaka and Pamelo Mounka.

UNESCO also added thiebou dieune, Senegal’s national fish dish, to its intangible heritage list in December. The dish, made up of rice, fish and different vegetables, served with or without a tomato, is often eaten as a midday dish in families and restaurants across the country.


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